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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

CHAPTER   XI

THE   FIRST   HALF   OF   THE   NINETEENTH

CENTURY

i. THE BEGINNINGS OF A NEW AGE

SOMETIME about the middle of the Eighteenth Century there
began a new epoch in the history of mankind, which may be
variously denoted the age of machinery, or the age of democracy,
or the age of free thought, according as it is regarded from the
economic, or the political, or the intellectual and spiritual point
of view. On the economic side, the determining fact was the
invention of the steam engine. Round the steam engine grew
the factory; round the factory, the manufacturing town; round
the manufacturing town, the nexus of trade relations that has
made or is making all the nations of the world an economic unit.
On the political side, the moving force came from the idea of the
worth of man as man apart from considerations of wealth, rank,
or nationality—the idea that " a man's a man for a' that"—
which led in the first instance to the demand that every individual
should have a share in fashioning the political conditions under
which he lives, and ultimately to the cosmopolitan dream of a
world-State, On the spiritual side, the faith in reason which in-
spired the Enlightenment in its protests against tradition, took
positive form in the conviction that humanity should shape its
destinies by means of the assured knowledge of science that
the individual thinker can test for himself independently of
authority.

The new ideals found catastrophic expression in the French
Revolution; and for a few brief years it seemed to the revolu-
tionaries in France and to all the generous souls in every part
of Europe who sympathized with them, that the chaims of the
past had been struck off, and that mankind would soon be free.
Flushed with their first triumphs and encouraged by the precedent
of the United States of America, they set themselves deliberately
to build up a new social order, founded on nature and reason,

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